The Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld an illegal logging conviction against a prominent activist allied with the environmental NGO Mother Nature.
Ven Vorn, an ethnic Chong resident of Koh Kong province, worked closely with the organization to protest a planned hydropower dam that would flood the area’s Areng Valley, displace hundreds of indigenous families and threaten animal species.
He received a one-year suspended sentence in March for cutting wood inside a protected area to build a community center. On trial at the Koh Kong Provincial Court, Mr. Vorn said he had purchased the wood from a local trader, but argued that even if he had cut it himself, he would have been within his rights as an indigenous Cambodian harvesting timber for personal use.
The Appeal Court was unmoved by the argument. “The court upheld the verdict,” Presiding Judge Kim Da*ny said on Wednesday, refusing to comment further. Mr. Vorn could not be reached.
His lawyer, Chan Socheat, said they would discuss appealing the case to the Supreme Court. San Mala, a Mother Nature activist who spent 10 months in prison for his role in an anti-dredging campaign, said Mr. Vorn was unlikely to receive fair treatment from the judiciary.
“The court never provides justice for activists who work to protect the environment and human rights,” he said.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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